Jiddu Krishnamurti on Death
Question: Though I am young, I am haunted by the fear
of death. How am I to overcome this fear?
Krishnamurti : Surely, anything that is overcome has to be overcome
again, does it not? When you conquer your enemy, you have to reconquer
him again and again. That is why wars continue. The moment you vanquish
one desire, there is another desire to be vanquished. So, that which is
overcome can never be understood. Overcoming is merely a form of
suppression, and you can never be free of that which is suppressed. So,
the overcoming of fear is merely the postponement of fear.
Our problem, then, is not how to overcome fear of death but to
understand the whole process of death, and understanding it is not a
matter of being young or old. There are various forms of death, for the
old as well as for the young. All of us are conditioned by our past, by
conformity, by the desire for our own advancement, by the subtle
accumulation of power, and though we are outwardly active, we may be
So, to understand this process of death needs a great
deal of exploration, and not merely adhering to a particular form of
belief - that there is, or is not, a continuity after death. Belief in
life after death may give you an ideological consolation, and there may
be, and probably is, a form of continuity. But then what? What
continues? Can that which continues ever be creative? And where there is
continuity, is there not always the fear of ending? So, death is a
process of time, is it not?
What do we mean by time? There is chronological time, but there is also
another kind of time, is there not? It is the psychological process of
continuity. That is, we want to continue, and the very desire to
continue creates the process of time and the fear of not continuing. It
is this fear of not continuing that we are concerned with; it is ending
of which we are afraid. We are afraid of death because we think that
through continuity we shall achieve something, we shall be happy.
After all, what is it that continues? If we can really understand that,
if we can actually experience it as we are sitting here, and not merely
listen to words, then perhaps we shall know what it is to die from
moment to moment; and knowing death, we shall know life because the two
are not very different. If we do not know how to live, we are afraid of
death, but if we know how to live, then there is no death. Most of us do
not know what living is, and so we regard death as a negation of life,
and therefore we are afraid of death. But if we can understand what
living is, then we shall know of death in the very process of living. To
find that out, we must understand what we mean by continuity.
What is this extraordinary craving to continue that each one of us has?
And what is it that continues? Surely, that which continues is name,
form, experience, knowledge, and various memories. That is what we are,
is it not? To divide yourself into the higher and the lower self is
irrelevant - you are still merely the sum total of all that.
may say, "No, I am more than that, I am a spiritual entity,'' that very
assertion is part of the process of thinking, which is the conditioned
and conditioning response of memory. There are others who are
conditioned to say, "We are not spiritual, we are just the product of
environment." So, you are your memories, your experiences, your
thoughts. At whatever level you place the thought process, you are still
that, and you are afraid that when death comes, that process, which is
the 'you', will come to an end. Or, you rationalize it and say, "I will
continue in some form after death and come back in the next life."
Now, a spiritual entity obviously cannot continue because it is beyond
time. Continuity implies time - yesterday, today, and tomorrow;
therefore, that which is timeless can have no continuity. To say "I am a
spiritual entity" is a comforting thought, but the very process of
thinking about it catches it in the net of time; therefore, it cannot be
timeless, and therefore it is not spiritual.
So, what we have is only our thinking, which is also feeling. We have
nothing but our name, our form, our family, our clothes and furniture,
our memories and experiences, our responses, traditions, vanities, and
prejudices. That is all we have, and that we want to continue. We are
afraid it will all come to an end, that we shall be unable to say, "This
for which I have struggled is all mine." Now, can that which continues
ever renew itself? Obviously not.
That which continues cannot be reborn,
renewed; it can merely have a continuity. Only that which comes to an
end can renew itself. There is creation only when there is an ending.
But we are afraid to end, we are afraid to die. We want to carry on from
yesterday through today to tomorrow. We are building Utopias and
sacrificing the present to the future, liquidating people because of the
desire for continuity.
If we examine very closely what it is that
continues, we will see that it is only memory in various forms, and
because the mind clings to memory, it is afraid of death. But surely,
only in dying, in not accumulating, is there that which is beyond time.
The mind cannot possibly conceive, formulate, or experience that which
is not of time. It can experience only that which is of time because the
mind is the result of time, of the past.
So, as long as the mind is afraid of coming to an end, it clings to its
own continuity, and that which continues must obviously decay. Our
difficulty is to die to all the things that we have accumulated, to all
the experiences of yesterday. After all, that is death, is it not? - to
be uncertain, to be in a state of vulnerability. The man who is certain
can never know that which is immortal, that which is beyond time.
man of knowledge can never know death, which is beyond time, the
unknown. It is only when we die from moment to moment to the things of
yesterday and understand the whole significance of continuity that there
is the unknown, a new thing. That which continues can never know the
truth, the unknown, the new; it can only know its own projection. Most
of us live through accumulation; therefore, yesterday and tomorrow
become far more important than the present.
There must obviously be chronological time; otherwise, you will miss
your train; but as long as we are caught in the projection of the mind,
which is psychological time, there is no ending, and that which has
continuity is not immortal. Only that which comes to an end is timeless,
and that alone can know the immortal.
Source: Jiddu Krishnamurti Talk at New York & Seattle
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